Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 27 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Simeon Sylites
home iconNews
line break icon

Dueling Rulings: Courts Split on Health Law Clash

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

Aleteia - published on 07/23/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Obamacare snarled in another big legal battle.

President Barack Obama’s health care law is snarled in another big legal battle, with two federal appeals courts issuing contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.

But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

And White House spokesman Josh Earnest immediately announced that millions of consumers will keep getting financial aid for their premiums — billions of dollars in all — as the administration appeals the one adverse decision.

In that first ruling, a divided three-judge panel in Washington called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums, saying financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.

About 100 miles to the south in Richmond, Virginia, another appeals court panel unanimously came to the opposite conclusion, ruling that the Internal Revenue Service correctly interpreted the will of Congress when it issued regulations allowing health insurance tax credits for consumers in all 50 states.

Split appeals court decisions are a classic route to the Supreme Court. But in this situation, it’s far from clear what will happen because the administration still has a legal card to play.
Since the Washington case was decided by a three-judge panel, the administration will ask the full 11-member appeals court to hear the case. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has seven judges appointed by Democratic presidents, including four by Obama.

If the full court comes out in favor of the administration, the prospect of Supreme Court involvement would be greatly diminished. On the other hand, if the full Washington court stays out of it or, after a hearing, essentially leaves the panel’s decision in place, then the Supreme Court would almost certainly weigh in.

Democratic appointees also constitute a majority of the full appeals court in Richmond.

Both cases are part of a long-running political and legal campaign to overturn Obama’s signature domestic legislation by Republicans and other opponents of the law.

In the Washington case, Halbig v. Burwell, a group of small business owners argued that the law authorizes subsidies only for people who buy insurance through markets established by the states — not by the federal government.

That’s no mere technical distinction, since the federal government is running the markets, or exchanges, in 36 states.

The Washington court agreed with that objection, in a 2-1 decision that could mean hefty premium increases for more than half the 8 million Americans who have purchased taxpayer-subsidized private insurance under the law.

For those federal exchange consumers, it would result in an average premium increase of 76 percent. Customers now pay $82 on average on total monthly premiums averaging $346. The federal subsidy of $264 a month makes up the rest of the premium.

Two judges appointed by Republican presidents voted against the administration’s interpretation of the law while one appointed by a Democratic president dissented.

The majority opinion concluded that the law, as written, "unambiguously" restricts subsidies to consumers in exchanges established by states. That would invalidate an IRS regulation that tried to sort out confusing wording in the law by concluding that Congress intended for consumers in all 50 states to have subsidized coverage.

"At least until states that wish to can set up exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly," wrote Judge Thomas Griffith.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
Politics
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
morning
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
2
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
3
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
4
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
5
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
6
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
7
BABCIA Z WNUKAMI
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.